It’s really nice to say thankyou. Let someone know that they were kind, helped you out or were there when you needed them. I am a huge fan of cards, notes…just to say nothing at all, except ‘I’m thinking about you’. It gives me great pleasure to tell people they are loved. If they are happy to hear it, all the better. I don’t think we are nearly as grateful or open with our love and respect as we should be. When you are at work, no matter what you do, how many people thank you for your efforts? How many times are you acknowledged for a job well done? Good effort? Told you made a difference?
I used to have a job where I got to hear that. Not from management, silly! From the kids. The only people that mattered.
I held on to those precious notes and cards when I did not want to go to work. I used their sincere gestures as power when I sat in the bottom of the shower in a ball, crying, feeling so pathetic and full of useless rage that I wished I would cease to exist. Just make the pain stop. The torture of going back every day to the same experience. HIM following me around. Watching me through the windows. Calling me into his office for obscure reasons to make dirty references and crude jokes. HIM emailing me, texting me from the other side of the staff room, coming to my home. HIM making signals and gestures as he led staff meetings which were ‘only for me’ and made the bile rise in my throat. I knew these behaviours from research I had worked on years previously regarding sexual offenders. (The intellectual understanding meant zero as it played out in my own life…) When I was the Social Scientist, someone gave a shit when the victim cried out for help. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? Right?
These days I have tubs of documents related to this saga. Mouldy diaries. Torn bits of paper with an acronym of some sexual assault organisation or another with ‘2pm Thurs’ next to it. A Victims of Crime Information Booklet. A few copies of my initial Police statement. Photos. Photos of the collage of photos he had of me on display in his office. Photos of me, smiling, with a student when I know what I was feeling inside at that time. Of HIM, HIS FACE. He was everywhere, he made sure of it. I also have copies of the local newspapers that featured an event I’d run at the school or money we’d raised for cancer research. At the time I was so proud. Now they make me sad. Who’s that girl..?
In another tub I have some of the letters and cards from students and parents because I know how precious they are. I have read some on days I needed to be strong for Court or telling the story AGAIN to another detached ‘professional’ who decides my psychological impairment after questioning me for twenty minutes.
I got the tub out of the shed today and I’m going to share some of the things that have been said about me. The real me. What I was to them. The potential I had to do good. Make amazing things happen. Work with your son or daughter so that they wanted to be the best they could be. I came at education from a very holistic approach, a social/emotional start point. I loved school, I loved to learn, I loved a challenge. When I said at Parent-Teacher night that I cared about your son’s progress and safety I meant it with every cell in my body. Make no mistake. I was meant to be in the classroom.
I am angry about not being able to be who I want to be, who I was. I honestly grieve for this loss. It hurts my heart. That’s what the job meant to me. It was a calling. I made connections with kids some teachers couldn’t fathom – and wouldn’t seek or miss. I know that. But I have had almost every ounce of pride, respect and self belief torn from me, layer by layer. You want to violate my body? Here, have this part of me. You want to call me a slut, tell me ‘mud sticks’ and I’ll kill my own career if I tell? Here, have it. You want me in the Police station when I should be at home coming up with new ways to get the quiet boy to come out of his shell? Fuck it. Here you go, here’s some more of me. Oh, cross examine me about my sexual assaults? Describe my boss touching and forcing himself onto my skin? It’s yours. Fuck you. You can’t believe that another senior colleague was there, made jokes and SHE ignored my swearing and fighting him off? Trust me. I cannot believe it either. I’m a liar? A slut? Led him on, you say? It’s because his wife has young kids? He’s horny? This whole deconstruction would be easier if you tapped me on the shoulder and said, “‘Scuse us, going to remove your heart with this blunt fork now. Right-o then, cheers. Mind if you could write it down for the fellas back at Regional Office? Thanks babe” And THEN you bring me into the office every week to question my professionalism? Tell me I have to deal with it or piss off? YOUR friends wouldn’t do THAT? Tell me I have to sit alone in the staff room in case I intimidate the woman who participated in the most serious sexual assaults and then told me to shut up or SHE would be in ‘deep shit’? Isolate me, berate me and deny my rape and stalking under your watch? It wasn’t that bloody covert if the students saw it, was it? You didn’t miss it, you knew and you COLLUDED AND LIED. You were negligent to say the least. I hope that group die a thousand slow deaths. Each.
But here are the reasons I stayed at work, and the reasons I will keep using my voice in whatever guise I am able. They are worth more to me than any cliche, misconduct, unprofessional collusion and victim blaming any asshole could ever come up with. Even now. Here come the tears. I am so sorry, kids. I was not the best teacher that ever lived, I’m not being ridiculous here. But I only needed to be the one they needed to make a difference. And I can’t be, now. I hate you all for it more than the rape, more than lies, more than the humiliation and erasure of all the good I did. I hate you all because by doing this to me you kind of took away something or someone good from those kids. That will never be ok. You didn’t just get rid of that young troublemaker who rocked the boat in your insular world. As far as I am concerned, you made victims of the kids, too. What they saw. What they heard. What they told their parents. They witnessed a strong, vibrant person who played a pivotal role in their lives (at least for a year) be dissolved into something else. And even if I only mattered to one student a year, you stole that from me. And you’ve stolen it from them. So I hate you. And I cry tears of rage and venom. And sometimes, just primal pain.
This is from a young person who wasn’t in my class, he just gave me some poetry he wrote and we talked about football. Some poems were beautiful but this one kills me now…
Red is the colour of a hot burning fire
Destroying everything in its path.
Red is the colour of blood when you hurt
Red is the colour of pain when you cry out for someone to help you
But red is the colour of the rose you give to someone you love
This is a letter from a twelve year old after we had Reach at our school, which was incidentally the best legacy I could have left and I’ll preach about that until I run out of air 🙂 …
Thank you for yesterday after Reach when you talked to me because it made me feel better, like everything you’ve done over the year. I know it’s not the end of the year yet but you have been an awesome teacher to make my last year a great one so thanks. But mainly I was writing because even though I cried at Reach it still made me feel better and Reach was an awesome experience because it was pretty hard for me to say sorry
because I’ve done heaps of bad and just to know I could talk to you about it made me feel better so once again thanks for everything.
We worked on a My Hero writing exercise once, looking to pinpoint characteristics of everyday people who students could look up to. I got one written about me, not in a cheesy point-scoring kind of way, but from the quietest little mouse in the room and later from the brashest, boldest character, who fought me all the way.
From a mother…
I wish to thank you for making this years camp a brilliant time for (my child). She was so looking forward to going away with you and has done nothing but rave about her time there. You have been a great influence over her this year. So much so I haven’t had a problem with her going to school. I have not had any phone calls from the school to come get her which used to happen quite often. It’s got to the stage I can’t even keep her at home. She relates to you so well and talks about you all the time. You know how to handle her cheekiness without hurting her feelings. She can also push the boundaries and you keep her in line. This is one less thing I have to worry about with so much going on with her (sibling)’s health problems. She thinks I am not interested in her because of all I have to do for (sibling) . This is why I am so grateful she can relate to you so well.
I did not do anything remarkable, I assure you. I just really, really cared. They mattered to me. So I looked for ways to help them grow and feel secure.
From the mother whose child told her he was worried about how I was being treated at school (you just can’t feel more broken than when you hear that)…
Thank you for all your support, encouragement and enthusiasm given to (my child) this year. We have all enjoyed your sense of humour and joy. You will be truly missed. All the best in the next step in your brilliant career… *imagine shooting self here* They knew why I was really leaving.
This from a student teacher I had in my class…
I would like to say a massive thanks for all of your support over my time with you. You have been an amazing mentor and I have learnt so much from you. I think you are a wonderful teacher and create a really positive and safe learning environment for all students to express themselves and have fun. When I graduate I hope and half the teacher you are. *shoots self here, too*
Another mum (they are great at thank you’s)…
Thank you so much for being so positive for (my child). He has changed so much this term, it’s been incredible. I cannot express what a relief it was when you started looking after him. Your positive attitude has made everyone look at him differently and he has become interested in so many things. Thank you again.
This one from a twelve year old was framed until last year…
When I began your class I thought I knew what challenges you’d make me face. You gave me the motivation to pursue the best of my abilities. You made me see that what I’d choose to seek, I’d surely find. I thank you now for what you’ve done. What you have taught me I will not outgrow. I will remember you for my whole life. I wish every teacher was like YOU.
I don’t care if she got that from a card or off the Internet…she painstakingly wrote it out in perfect cursive. I love it.
He’s had the best year and blossomed into such a confident young man. This school really needs teachers like you…
You are awesome and it will be hard to let go. Hope the new school treats you like we did… *bless ‘im (SCREAMS)*
One from the girls…
March 8th is International Women’s Day and this made me think about the special women I know, and I thought of you. You inspire me to extend my knowledge to its full potential. You care about all the students in our class. You taught me to work smarter, not harder. You have helped me to understand that learning can be fun and for that I thank you…
I don’t even know what the point of this post is. I’m mad today. Really sad. Grieving. Missing the classroom. Missing the me I was before it got wrecked. It’s not a thrilling read, but I’d add this to my Victim Impact Statement. You took this, too, you bastards. And I don’t know what to do about that loss. Because it was my job – what I did – but it was also my passion and my dream.
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Attend Slutwalk Johannesburg (cybersass.com)
- What to Do if You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted (blogs.lawyers.com)
- Contempt motion against Kentucky sexual assault victim dropped (rawstory.com)
- A Fate Worse Than Death… (omgrey.wordpress.com)
- Consent is just so damn sexy! (hunterrileysexeducation.com)
- Defining Rape and Sexual Assault (traumatherapy.typepad.com)